Pageantmaster has given some background to some of the names being talked about as the leading contenders to be the next Bishop of Southwark
Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans
How short peoples’ memories are.
The problem over Jeffrey John in 2003 came to a head with allegations that he had been untruthful in a statement he had given about his domestic arrangements. This allegation was made in an article in the Daily Telegraph in June 2003:
[blockquote]In a statement issued last week, Dr John insisted that he and his boyfriend, whom he did not identify, had not been sexually active for a decade. He added: “My partner and I have never lived together (apart from one brief period while he was moving house) because our separate ministries have never made it possible to do so. However, we rely on each other for support and spend as much free time together as possible.”
Last night, however, the Diocese of Oxford confirmed that the men jointly own a Â£235,000 flat in Roehampton, south-west London, near the church where Mr Holmes works. They hold regular dinner parties there.
Friends have told The Telegraph that before buying the flat last year Mr Holmes may have used Dr John’s Southwark house as a correspondence address. The disclosures have further angered the critics, who say the statements given by Dr John last week were misleading. [/blockquote]
With the emerging details of Dr John’s private life, it was no longer possible for the Bishop of Oxford and the ABC to push this through under the radar. Faced with a revolt by evangelical and high church Anglicans, as well as from the Communion, the Queen expressed her concern [twice apparently] and a meeting was held between Dr John, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the then Bishop of Oxford. Dr John agreed to withdraw.
He was appointed to what was then the evangelical St Albans Abbey as Dean and in 2006 entered into a civil partnership.
The issue of truthfulness is as pertinent now as it was in 2003.
And from here
Here is some more background on events regarding Jeffrey John, his views and the persistent attempts to make him a bishop.
1. Claims made in 2003 not to live with his partner
The Statement issued by him trying to allay concerns over his appointment as Bishop of Reading in 2003 is here:
Containing this statement:
My personal life
I am a homosexual. As I stated in my Post-Lambeth Reflections, I have been in the kind of covenant relationship I have described above since 1976, and will remain so. I regard this life partnership as a gift and vocation from God.
The relationship does not, however, involve sexual expression. It falls within the ‘gift of same-sex friendship … of companionship and sexual abstinence’ in which the nine diocesan bishops who have publicly spoken against my appointment have said that they rejoice.
Nor is it the case that sexual expression was recently abandoned for the sake of preferment. The relationship ceased to be sexual in the 90s, at the time when Issues in Human Sexuality was becoming the policy document by which clergy were being called to abide.
I have had, and I still have, an overriding regard for the mind of the church in its interpretation of scripture, whatever my personal interpretation. This means that I have always submitted the facts of this relationship, both to my confessors and to my canonical superiors, and I have obeyed their direction.
My partner and I have never lived together (apart from one brief period while he was moving house) because our separate ministries have never made it possible to do so.
As mentioned in my comment above Dr John’s assurance was inconsistent with the information which emerged of his joint ownership of a flat with his partner.
2. On the teaching of Lambeth 1:10
Also in the above Statement is this:
My personal view about homosexual relationships
My own view is that there is a sound argument from scripture and tradition in favour of Christians accepting same-sex relationships, provided they are based on a personal covenant of lifelong faithfulness.
I would not term such a relationship a marriage, but I believe that it could be understood as a legitimate covenanted relationship. My arguments for this view are set out most fully in a booklet entitled Permanent Faithful Stable, first published in 1990 and updated in 2000. Practically the same text also appears as a chapter of a book entitled The Way Forward?, published by the St Andrew’s Day Group in 1999.
Following the Lambeth conference, I also gave a talk entitled Post-Lambeth Reflections to an Affirming Catholicism conference, which was informally photocopied and privately distributed. This talk reflects the anger that I and many others felt in the wake of Lambeth ’98.
I regret its excessively personal and polemical tone, and the fact that, as a result of the controversy about my appointment, it has, ironically, been given far wider circulation than was ever intended.
3. Views on the Atonement
In April 2007 Dr John again hit the headlines here:
Clergy who preach this Easter that Christ was sent to earth to die in atonement for the sins of mankind are “making God sound like a psychopath”, he will say.
In a BBC Radio 4 show, Mr John, who is now Dean of St Albans, urges a revision of the traditional explanation, known as “penal substitution”.
Christian theology has taught that because humans have sinned, God sent Christ as a substitute to suffer and die in our place.
“In other words, Jesus took the rap and we got forgiven as long as we said we believed in him,” says Mr John. “This is repulsive as well as nonsensical. It makes God sound like a psychopath. If a human behaved like this we’d say that they were a monster.”
Mr John argues that too many Christians go through their lives failing to realise that God is about “love and truth”, not “wrath and punishment”. He offers an alternative interpretation, suggesting that Christ was crucified so he could “share in the worst of grief and suffering that life can throw at us”.
Church figures have expressed dismay at his comments, which they condemn as a “deliberate perversion of the Bible”. The Rt Rev Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, accused Mr John of attacking the fundamental message of the Gospel.
“He is denying the way in which we understand Christ’s sacrifice. It is right to stress that he is a God of love but he is ignoring that this means he must also be angry at everything that distorts human life,” he said.
Bishop Wright criticised the BBC for allowing such a prominent slot to be given to such a provocative argument. “I’m fed up with the BBC for choosing to give privilege to these unfortunate views in Holy Week,” he said.
The Bishop of Durham reviewed and criticised the views of Dr John here:
”˜The Cross and the Caricatures: a response to Robert Jenson, Jeffrey John, and a new volume entitled Pierced for Our Transgressions’
The Cross and The Caricatures
His key criticisms lead in:
All of which brings us back to Dr John’s talk itself. It wasn’t long, and of course Dr John would no doubt say, as I have done, that an essay several times the length would still not be enough to do justice to the topic. But it is therefore all the more frustrating to see how many of his short minutes he used up in presenting a sad caricature of the biblical doctrines of God’s wrath, God’s moral providence, and of the atonement itself”¦.
Dr Albert Mohler also wrote an article in response:
Peter Ould also was critical:
Jeffrey John only does half the story
4. Dr John’s attempts to become a bishop and the withdrawal from Reading.
Ruth Gledhill gives the story of what happened when Dr John was asked to resign his appointment as bishop of Reading and gives the background to a prior attempt to make him Bishop of Monmouth, which was stopped by the Church in Wales:
”˜The rise and fall of Dr Jeffrey John’ ”“ Times ”“ 7th July 2003
What is apparent according to Ruth Gledhill is that Dr John was suggested by the Archbishops’ Appointments Advisor. Notwithstanding this it was the Archbishop of Canterbury who stepped in to ask for his resignation.
Subsequently in August 2008 he was nominated as Bishop of Bangor ”“ for a second time the Church in Wales got cold feet and he was not appointed.
The latest attempt appears to be going on now in Southwark. Dr John is one of two controversial candidates mentioned, the other being the Rev Nick Holtam of St Martins-in-the-Fields ”“ a vocal advocate for “inclusion” who his chums in Southwark Cathedral seem to like. He would normally be debarred from serving as a breach of the restrictions on divorce and bishops, but our House of Bishops have taken it on themselves to attempt to change this without going through Synod. It looks increasingly like this was intended to open the way for those such as Nick Holtam to become bishops.
The Ugley Vicar has an analysis of some of the recent apparently deliberately divisive appointments of CofE bishops including the Bishop of Chelmsford and the suffragan Bishop of Stafford:
Bearing in mind what Dr Williams and others keep telling us, that bishops are consecrated for the whole Communion, one does have to wonder at the appointments to the House of Bishops here being made at the moment: divorced bishops, gay bishops as well as women bishops. Is the plan to isolate the Church of England from the rest of the Communion? I am amazed at the fecklessness.
Is there a deathwish?
Rev. Nick Holtam, St Martins in the Fields
Unfortunately the other main candidate being talked about is also a campaigner for full gay inclusion [and we know what that means – SSU’s and bishops]. The Rev Nick Holtam is the vicar of St Martins-in-the-Fields and one of the founding steering committee of Inclusive Church:
The rejection of Canon Jeffrey John was probably the most recent high-profile example of injustice in our church, but it is certainly not the only one. We are aware that there are many individuals, groups and organisations that have been working long and hard, often with little support or encouragement, to highlight and overcome injustices in our Church. Some have already joined Inclusive Church .net. We want to honour them all and celebrate their courage. We believe that by forming Inclusive Church.net, we can work together to recover the inclusive nature of the church which is the heart and soul of Anglicanism.
InclusiveChurch.net was born on 11th August 2003 at a Eucharist in Putney. On 15th September a small group of supporters met to consider this overwhelming response, and concluded that Inclusive Church was here to stay. At that meeting we elected a small interim steering group: Rev’d Angus Aagaard, April Alexander, Rev’d Philip Chester, Ven Stephen Conway, Rev’d Joe Hawes, Rev’d Nick Holtam, Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser (chair), Anne Kiem (treasurer), Rev’d Simon Pothen, Rev’d Dr Hugh Rayment-Pickard, Rev’d Richard Sewell, Rev’d Dr Jane Shaw, Very Rev’d Colin Slee, Rev’d Dave Tomlinson, Rev’d Richard Thomas (secretary), Mark Vernon, Charles Walmsley, Rev’d Colin Coward, Rev’d Mary Robins.
An interview in the Guardian in 2005 gives a clue to just how much of an activist he is:
Holtam’s philosophy is crystallised in his careful campaign for the ordination of gay clergy. When Gene Robinson, New Hampshire’s gay Anglican bishop, came to Britain last month he made his first public appearance at St Martin’s despite protests from the Church of England’s evangelical wing. “We were very keen to keep within the letter of the law,” Holtam explains. ‘Nevertheless, we wanted to provide a platform. The way we did it was to hold a service at which he was present, and took no active part, but afterwards he spoke to a full church. Ironically, he got an hour and a quarter to speak and a standing ovation. If he’d been in the pulpit he’d have got 15 minutes and a rather more muted response.”
With the issue of gay clergy threatening to split the Anglican church, Holtam took a risk in welcoming Bishop Robinson. And yet he quails at the idea that he should be credited for his stance. “It’s the place that’s remarkable and I’m just the custodian of the moment,” he argues.
Now he is being pushed for a bishropic, by Rowan Williams according to this article by Jonathan Petre in the Guardian a few months ago:
To his credit, Rowan Williams wants Holtam to be a bishop, and there are several dioceses queueing up to consider him.
So just looking at recent candidates for vacancies here, the pattern is pretty depressing. The Diocese of Chelmsford has had Stephen Cottrell lined up as its next bishop in November. He was put into Reading when Jeffrey John stepped down, and is of similar inclusive activist views. Now in Southwark the proposed two leading candidates are both pro-gay activists, and in Holtam’s case, a co-founder of Inclusive Church in response to the Jeffrey John affair, and the man who was the first to bring Gene Robinson to speak at his church in England.
As disturbing is the linking going on to the support apparently given to some of these candidates by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Then there are the peculiar moves made recently in the House of Bishops removing the divorce bar apparently to clear the way for Holtam to be a bishop.
So is it the case that the ABC and others are pushing for stuffing the House of Bishops with Affirming Catholics of his own stripe and inclusive beliefs?
Is it not reasonable to expect that our bishops are at least capable of conforming to the beliefs of our church and of the Communion’s teaching? Moreover is it not reasonable to have bishops who are acceptable to the other provinces of our Communion? Why should the ABC and his Aff Cath friends stuff this small clique of Inclusive Church types into vacant dioceses?